London skatepark given protected status
- Icon of 1970s British Skateboard scene, Rom Skatepark in Hornchurch, listed at Grade II
- First Skatepark To Be Listed in Europe, Second in the World
- Decision based on research for new publication Played in London by Sports Historian Simon Inglis (Historic England, £25.00)
One of the most elaborate and complete examples of a purpose built skatepark has been listed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on the advice of Historic England . Built in Hornchurch in 1978 by Adrian Rolt and G-Force, the leading skatepark designers of the period, 'the Rom' is the best example of a small number of skateparks that still survive from the early heyday of the skateboarding boom in the UK.
This is the first time a skatepark has been listed anywhere in Europe, and the second skatepark to be listed in the world, the first being "Bro Bowl" in Tampa, Florida, added to the USA's National Register of Historic Places in October 2013.
Heritage Minister, Ed Vaizey, said: "The Rom was built in the late seventies for the very first skateboarders and is as popular now as it was then. Its listing at Grade II is testament to its design and also highlights how the UK's unique heritage reflects all parts of our culture and history. I hope the protection provided by this listing ensures the pool, moguls and snake run can be enjoyed for years to come."
Roger Bowdler, Designation Director at Historic England , said: "Skateboarding is more than a sport: it has become a world-wide cult. The Rom is the finest example in England of this aspect of youth culture, and we are delighted its special interest will be protected for future generations through listing. It gives the whole idea of heritage an extra twist."
The Rom is the product of a skateboarding craze that swept Britain in the 1970s. As skateboarding fever gripped the nation a rash of skateparks were built, but later demolished as popularity declined. The Rom is a rare survivor of this period and has been one of the most influential sites in British skateboarding culture ever since.
The Rom opened in August 1978. Designed by Adrian Rolt of G-force, the park is made up of seamless shotcrete (pressurised concrete) closely based on Californian skateparks. These in turn were based on the various urban spaces colonised by pioneer skaters, including the oval and kidney-shaped swimming pools of the Los Angeles elite and the vast concrete spillways and drainage features of the Californian coast.
The Rom takes up 8000 m², in a corridor of green land, next to the River Rom from which the skatepark takes its name. The central 4,000m² is surfaced in shotcrete, with a series of bowls and hollows of various shapes let into its surface. Today it is used for a mixture of skateboards, BMXs and kick scooters.
The research into the skatepark formed part of a wider research project on London's sporting heritage, culminating in the publication by Historic England of Played in London. Written by Simon Inglis as part of the Played in Britain series, the book charts the spaces, buildings, and sports that have shaped London's cultural and urban landscape for over two millennia. Beautifully illustrated with original photographs and detailed maps, and based on more than ten years of in-depth research, Played in London explores the legacy of sport in the world's most iconic city. This is the most ambitious offering yet from Simon Inglis, the UK's leading sporting heritage expert, who for the first time masterfully investigates the history and continuing heritage of sport across the whole of London.
Simon Inglis, author of Played in London, said: "When most of us think of sporting heritage we conjure up images of Victorian cricket pavilions, of old football shirts or of Edwardian swimming baths. Lots of people thought that like Chopper bikes and Space Hoppers the fad would soon pass, but as we can see in London alone, where there are at least 75 skateparks currently in use, skateboarding is still as cool as ever. I think it is wonderful that not only has Historic England supported the research and publication of Played in London, but that it is also taking practical steps to protect this amazing piece of late 20th century heritage in Hornchurch."
The seven main features of The Rom
The Pool: a twin-lobed bowl, approximately 6.7m in diameter and 2.75m deep, with a 2m ramp at one end and a metal rim. This is a standard design, based on the keyhole pool at Skateboard Heaven in Spring Valley, California and the San Diego 'Soul Bowl'. The resemblance to a swimming pool is emphasised by the smooth lining material ('marbleite' resin, according to a contemporary article) applied over the shotcrete surface, as well as the raised flagstone-like surround (known as 'coping' in skateboard parlance) and the layers of blue mosaic tiles beneath the rim.
The Mogus: six interlinked bowls of varying depth and diameter, arranged in a triangular formation with a high concrete 'shoulder' separating each from each.
The Performance Bowl: a single large bowl, 9m in diameter and up to 4m deep, with a long wedge-shaped entry ramp. Like its Californian prototype, the 'Vertibowl' at Paramount Skatepark, it was once enclosed by a curving vertical wall that served to increase its depth; this was taken down within a year of opening.
The Slalom Run and Freestyle Arena: a long ramp that forms the site's main east-west axis; its eastern end is raised up, while to the west it descends into a large shallow rectangular bowl used for freestyle manoeuvres.
The Snake Run: a serpentine formation, shallow at one end and gradually deepening towards the other.
The Four-Leaf Clover: four small bowls of unequal depth, arranged in a clover-leaf formation, each separated by a shallow concrete lip.
The Half-Pipe: a long, deep capsule-shaped bowl with vertical walls (partially lowered and shortened since construction) along the straight sides.
Simon Inglis' quote in full
Simon Inglis, author of Played in London, said: "When most of us think of sporting heritage we conjur up images of Victorian cricket pavilions, of old football shirts or of Edwardian swimming baths. But skateboarding has now been part of the nation's recreational life for over 35 years, since it arrived in Britain from California at the height of the 1970s. Some of the pioneers are now grandparents, passing on their skills and enthusiasm to the next generation.
"Lots of people thought that like Chopper bikes and Space Hoppers the fad would soon pass, but as we can see in London alone, where there are at least 75 skateparks currently in use, skateboarding is still as cool as ever, and has received a real boost thanks to the growing number of BMX bikers, who now share the facilities at most skateparks."
"We honed in on 'the Rom' because of the six or seven survivors from the 1970s, it retains more of its original features than any other and is still essentially complete. We were also impressed by the skatepark at Harrow, and many skateboarders will be familiar with the old skateparks at Kennington and Stockwell, plus of course the famous concourse at the South Bank.
"But the Rom Skatepark stands out. A great design team, a great ensemble of features, all in amazing condition and redolent of the 1970s. I think it is wonderful that not only has Historic England supported the research and publication of Played in London, but that it is also taking practical steps to protect this amazing piece of late 20th century heritage in Hornchurch.
"I really hope that 'the Rom' will now become a place of pilgrimage for young skateboarders wanting to learn more about the sport's early days, and have a brilliant time while doing so."